Recognizing the critical need for immigrant labor to expand crop production in the U.S. and to keep food prices down, the NJ Business Immigration Coalition endorses passage of the Farm Workforce Modernization Bill. Enjoying broad bipartisan support, the bill has already passed in the House of Representatives and awaits approval in the Senate. The bill streamlines the process of applying for H-2A workers and allows undocumented farmworkers, who presently constitute a majority of the nation’s 2.4 million farmworkers, to apply for legal status in the U.S.
Important provisions of the Bill include the following:
- Streamlining the approval process by creating a single filing portal for employers to eliminate duplicative review by multiple agencies
- Allowing a limited number of H-2A workers to be employed in year-round jobs, including those in the dairy and meat production industries
- Stabilizing wage rates in the agricultural sector by putting in place a new system for determining prevailing wage rates to ensure that H-2A workers do not negatively impact U.S. wages
- Taking steps to prevent foreign labor recruiters from misinforming and defrauding potential agricultural workers
- Creating a pathway to legal permanent residence (LPR) for agricultural laborers who performed at least 180 days of agricultural labor in the two-year period prior to March 8, 2021. The initial step would be to apply for “Certified Agricultural Worker” (CAW) status.
- In order to advance from CAW status to permanent residence, farmworkers who have worked in U.S. agriculture for at least 10 years could apply for LPR status if they work for at least four more years in agriculture. Farmworkers who have worked for less than 10 years would have to work at least eight more years before they could apply for LPR status.
- The bill requires agricultural employers to use a variant of the E-verify system to ensure that all agricultural employees in the future are work authorized
- The bill raises the cap on “unskilled” workers in the permanent employment-based immigration system from 5,000 to 40,000
The Coalition recognizes that the Senate may seek for ways to improve the bill, but we believe that the House has definitely laid the groundwork for successful legislation. Joining the NJ Business Immigration Coalition in endorsing the bill are the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Business Immigration Coalition, and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA).